SCHINNEN, Netherlands -- Overseas assignments bring unlimited opportunities for adventure and excitement, but they may also bring stress, frustration and a profound sense of loneliness if individuals don't connect with familiar support systems. Army Family Readiness Groups can help.

FRGs are command-sponsored organizations that form a network of communication and mutual support among family members, community resources and a unit's chain of command. They also play a key role in Soldier and family readiness, notes Anne Daugherty, USAG Schinnen's acting director of Army Community Services.

"FRGs enable Soldiers to better focus on their mission and maintain the mental readiness to carry out that mission because they don't have to worry whether or not family members are receiving support and the tools they need to also be resilient," Daugherty explained.

In this tri-border region of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, two FRGs serve Army families: one at AFNORTH Battalion, located on Joint Forces Command Brunssum and another at USAG Schinnen's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment. Ellen Jeffries is the acting FRG leader for AFNORTH Battalion. She came here from Ft. Bragg where the FRG focused on keeping communication open between command leadership and families of deployed personnel.

"Here, the FRG provides Soldiers and spouses a 'ready-made' family in times of need, or when they just want to vent about living in Europe," Jeffries said.

"It's hard to care about your fellow unit or company members if you don't know them," Pam Shackelford, FRG leader for the Schinnen group, observed. "Military life is rife with challenges that can leave a person feeling isolated, alone, and at worst, ignored. The FRG is there to help the individual connect to the community."

As a former Soldier, Sarah Martin, Schinnen's previous FRG leader, sees a change in the FRGs of today, versus those she knew a decade ago. "I've watched FRGs become more goal based and organized, rather than just a 'gossip club' as I used to see them as a Soldier. There's also been an influx of formal training for FRG Leaders, steering committees and the spouses," she said.

Jeffries, Shackelford and Martin realize many people associate FRGs with deployments, but FRGs do a whole lot more than assist during separations. Both tri-border FRGs are active in community events, including the annual 4th of July AmericaFest, Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween Trunk or Treat. Last year, the AFNORTH FRG took 30 single Soldier and married moms on a "mothers only" trip to Keukenhof Gardens. The Schinnen FRG hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and offered Burrito Breakfasts at Schinnen.

"A true FRG is there all the time to help - be it with meals for a Soldier or family member who's been hospitalized... or just as somewhere to turn when you want to talk; they're also a great way to find out what resources the community has available," Jeffries said.

Schinnen's Army Community Services offers FRG training regularly. To contact either FRG in the tri-border area, or to find out when the next training is scheduled, call ACS: 31-46-443-7500.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16